Looking to 2011: 10 HR Predictions and the Shift to a ‘Borderless Workplace’

HR ideas and predictions for 2011.
HR ideas and predictions for 2011.

There are year-end list and reports, and then there are Year-End List and Reports.

You know the difference. The former are sort of like bubble gum — sweet and bubbly, sort of fun, but without a great deal of anything that will do much good for you.

In the latter group, however, are the lists and reports that you REALLY do need to pay attention to because they have great insight and perspective from someone that REALLY knows what they are talking about.

So it is today with a Bersin & Associates report titled 2011: Building the Borderless Workplace. It provides “an annual review of the key business, training and talent management trends, best practices and factors for learning and HR organizations to consider in strategic planning and budgeting for the year ahead.”

Bersin, which touts itself as “a world-class research and consulting firm that empowers HR organizations to drive bottom-line impact,” is known for its sharp insights on HR and management practices, particularly in the area of training & development. That’s why its annual predictions are something to take seriously, because they are based in both Bersin’s deep experience as well as their thoughtful research.

The 10 predictions included in the 2011 report (and you can get a copy by filling out a brief registration form here) address “the dynamic changes in the economy and ongoing organizational changes as they relate to learning culture and talent management, integrated talent and learning strategies, informal and continuous learning, talent mobility, social networking for talent acquisition, new models of leadership development, the talent management software market, and HR alignment with business,” Bersin says.

Ten predictions for 2011

I’m breaking out the 2011 predictions here, but you really should get a copy of the report yourself so you can go deeper and really immerse yourself into the insight and perspective that really behind each of them. You’ll appreciate it all a lot more if you do. The 2011 predictions are:

  1. Innovation, empowerment and learning culture will become common themes for talent management and business growth. Some 34 percent of all HR and business leaders now cite “driving innovation” as one of their top three talent challenges, Bersin says, up from only 14 percent in early 2010. And, research has found that organizations with a strong learning culture are far out-performing their peers.
  2. Deep specialization and career development are now keys to organizational success, and will drive integrated talent and learning strategies. Creating deep skills among professionals, functional specialists, technical roles and leaders is critical to organizational success, the report says. While corporate universities play a role, the real solutions for 2011 are to build “capability development” strategies that incorporate all of the elements of talent management to drive specialization and expertise.
  3. Informal and continuous learning will continue to transform corporate L&D, and will drive further adoption of internal social networking. The need for a continuous learning model (which incorporates informal learning), Bersin notes, is driving a transformation of L&D.
  4. Talent mobility strategies will become highly strategic, often replacing the traditional approach to succession management. High-impact mobility strategies, the report points out, match the needs of the organization with those of the individual, and create a highly responsive and innovative workplace.
  5. Social networking will continue to transform corporate recruiting. Corporate recruiting is actually one of the “killer applications” of social networking, the report notes, and Bersin research shows that most companies spend $800 to $1,700 (and often more) per recruit on the talent acquisition process.
  6. New models of leadership development will emerge, forcing HR organizations to rethink and re-engineer many of their leadership programs. In 2011, Bersin says, it is time for organizations to focus on programs to identify the next generation of leaders, broadening the focus of leadership development beyond top leadership and first-line supervisors. They also acknowledge that today’s high-performing organizations are led by strong subject-matter experts with skills in team leadership, learning agility, global awareness and business acumen.
  7. HR transformation programs will accelerate, driven by globalization and the need to further integrate talent and employee engagement strategies. High-impact HR organizations have learned how to reorganize, reskill and use technology to make HR generalists into strategic business partners. Re-skilling HR will become a major topic in 2011 and beyond.
  8. The Talent Management software market will continue to grow rapidly, as the market players become bigger and more consolidated. In fact, Bersin predicts that he talent management software market will grow faster in 2011 and continue to become the dominant topic in the area of HR technology. They also say to watch for new applications to emerge in 2011 – including workforce planning and analytics, talent mobility solutions, and built- in systems for talent reviews, segmentation and engagement management.
  9. Companies will start to unravel and replace their 20-plus years of investment in HRMS systems – and evolve to SaaS and more modern systems for core HR management. Bersin says that the old- fashioned HRMS is ready for a major facelift, and that 2011 will show an increasing trend toward implementing next-generation SaaS- based HRMS solutions.
  10. Business executives will further understand and take part in Talent Management strategies, but HR leaders will still struggle to gain alignment. The topic of people and talent is a boardroom conversation, Bersin rightly notes. In 2011, as organizations drive toward globalization, growth and innovation, HR and L&D leaders must make sure they take the lead to drive solutions to these problems. Bersin research found that the single biggest challenge HR professionals face is “the ability to stay aligned with the business strategy” (37 percent of respondents).

“Globalization” now a top business strategy

These are intriguing predictions, and from where I sit, they seem to also be insightful and spot-on accurate.

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“Pressured by the globalization of most markets, Human Resource organizations are shifting toward a business focus on innovation, growth and new product development,” said Josh Bersin, president and chief executive officer, Bersin & Associates, in a press release announcing the study. “The firm’s comprehensive research shows that most businesses are going global, learning how to best manage a multi-generational workforce, and suffering skills shortages created by years of lackluster public education and high unemployment.”

As a result, Bersin added, “High-performing HR organizations will learn to create a borderless workplace that encourages innovation, expertise, and collaboration by focusing on leadership strategies and programs that enable everyone in a company to become better at what they do.”

Bersin research also found that 17 percent of all organizations cited “globalization” as one of their top three business strategies in 2010 — three times the percentage of midyear 2009. With low economic growth in the U.S. and Europe, companies of all sizes are moving people and operations to Japan, India and other developing countries, and building a globalized platform of operations and talent movement. This is forcing HR to globalize learning and development and HR programs, as well as its own operational structure.

There’s a lot more here, of course, but you need to dig into the (free) report itself to get it. If nothing else, you’ll get some insight into the things you should be looking for in your own organization as the New Year begins.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.